Lutherans in Minnesota

South District LCMS takes action on hymnal use and emerging congregation’s membership

The Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod met in
convention June 11-13 at Concordia University, St. Paul under the theme
“Transformed for His Mission.” The South District includes 241 congregations
in the bottom third of Minnesota.

District president the Rev. Dr. Lane Seitz opened the convention with
encouragement to confront the difficult issues confronting representatives.
“Some have said this is a watershed convention for us,” said Seitz, “because
there are differences among us. We live in a world and a church that is
affected by sin, and Satan loves nothing more than … to distract us.
“It will be a watershed convention,” Seitz reminded delegates, “if God has his
way with us.”

The South District has been in discussion of several controversial topics in
recent years, including membership of The Alley, a church in Cottage Grove,
Minnesota, that has special appeal to young members of the LCMS, and the
required use of LCMS-published resources for worship services.

The Alley had applied for membership in the District within the last year, but
the district’s board of directors decided against including them in the
district’s fellowship due to some concerns about worship style. The Alley
appealed this decision to the convention itself.

In the floor discussion, the Rev. Klemet Preus of Glory of Christ Lutheran
Church, Plymouth, Minnesota, told delegates that a 1995 resolution requires
all congregations to boldly profess their Lutheran identity in their name,
something, he says, The Alley does not do. The board of directors was
obligated to deny affiliation, he stated.

The Rev. John Maxfield, Trinity Lutheran Church, St. Francis, Minnesota,
added that The Alley didn’t meet the requirement of using “doctrinally pure
catechisms and hymn books.”

Preus asked the convention voters to defer a decision enabling the board to
look further into the concerns raised, so that eventually all people could
welcome The Alley into the district.

The Rev. Bob Gehrke, South Shore Trinity Lutheran Church, White Bear Lake,
Minnesota, responded that The Alley had met every requirement put forward.
“If we don’t like the standards, we can talk about that,” he said. He added,
“The circuit pastors overwhelmingly support the ministry of The Alley … and
its balance of Law and Gospel.”

The Rev. Dean Nadasdy, Woodbury Lutheran Church, Woodbury, Minnesota,
added that “it is a difficult thing to ask [delegates] to overturn a decision of
the board of directors.” But, he added, the decision by the board was
neither unanimous nor harmonious. Nadasdy expressed concern that new
standards, not recognized elsewhere in the synod, would be established by
upholding the board’s action.

After nearly an hour of debate, the delegates voted overwhelmingly to accept
The Alley into district fellowship. More than 65 percent (239 votes) supported
inclusion.

“We are thankful to the Minnesota South District for opening its doors to us,”
said the Rev. Ben Griffin, pastor of The Alley, “and look forward to working
together to take the gospel to the streets.”

In other convention actions, the convention representatives overwhelmingly
approved a resolution to overturn the board’s decision to require the use of
the Lutheran Service Book by mission congregations.

In elections, Seitz was re-elected to a three-year term as district president
with more than 71 percent of the vote. The Revs. Bob Gehrke, Mark Tewes
(Living Christ, Chanhassen), Larry Griffin (Trinity, Janesville), and Gerhard
Bode (Peace, Hutchinson) were elected vice presidents of the district.